Mailbag: Taking Stock of the Hype
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Love or Hate: Nebraska is Bigger, and Richer

May 17, 2019

Let’s not mince words. There’s plenty of that elsewhere in this piece. Let’s get to it.

War Daddy Up

Nebraska just looks bigger. 

After three days spent at Memorial Stadium serving as a photo assistant for our lead photographer, Paul Bellinger, while 90 some Huskers came through for the 2019 Hail Varsity Yearbook photoshoot, I didn’t come away with any massive takeaways about the team’s mindset. I don’t think I can definitively say their confidence is in a different place than it was at this time last year — Scott Frost had still only been in Lincoln like five months… they were excited. 

What I was left with after packing up and wrapping up another shoot was this: Nebraska looked bigger last year than the year before, and Nebraska looks even bigger this year than it did last year. 

Summer workouts with Zach Duval started this past week. The beginning means metabolic workouts. Guys were sore. I asked Alex Davis just in passing if Duval was pushing the team harder in Year 2 and he said no. 

They’re pushing themselves harder. 

“The workout hasn’t necessarily changed — little tweaks here and there, adding a little bit more explosive lifts in there — but we’re grinding,” junior JoJo Domann said. “Today was a Thursday light squat day and not only was it not very light but the rest of our lifts, we’re going balls to the wall. We thought today, Thursday light, was harder than Monday heavy. We’re in the locker room after today’s lift like, ‘Holy smokes, that was harder than Monday.’ It’s just how hard you push yourself.

“It’s what are you going to get out of yourself? Are you going to sell out or are you going to just try and get through it?”

Attrition Nebraska has faced since Frost arrived weakened depth at some spots, yes, but it also weeded out the group that wasn’t willing to sell out. Nebraska has a group now that understands where they want to go and what it’s going to take to get there. 

“Big picture, we had to understand and know that to play at the level we want to play at, to accomplish the things we want to accomplish, our bodies and our physical capabilities have to be at a certain threshold that they just weren’t,” Domann said. “(Duval)’s made it abundantly clear that it’s a day-by-day grind, it’s a lifestyle, it’s choice after choice that just build on each other that makes you who you are. 

“That’s working hard, working smart, eating healthy, eating the right things at the right time and being consistent with it — because you can’t do that Monday through Friday and then blow your liver out on the weekend. It’s just the whole process he’s educated us on. He’s told us and made it abundantly clear that it’s a necessary step in getting where we want to go.” 

That education is adding up to more weight on the bar and a team that’s moving in the right direction. 

All the Moneys

It might mean more in the SEC, but it isn’t worth as much. 

The revenue the Big Ten conference received from Fiscal Year 2018 — thanks in part to the start of its new TV deal — was the largest payout for a conference ever, according to records obtained by USA Today. The conference reported $759 million in revenue, nearly a 50 percent increase from 2017 when the league reported $512.9 million in revenue. It’s just a shade under $100 million more than the SEC reported in February and more than double what the Big 12 reported. 

Nebraska, now a fully-vested member of the Big Ten, earned a payout of around $54 million from that.  

And there’s this: 

“More than 170 of the 213 public-school athletics programs outside the Big Ten reported less than $54 million in operating revenue for fiscal 2017, the most recent year for which figures have been compiled by USA TODAY, in partnership with Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.”

Nebraska got that from just the Big Ten. Thank you, TV money. 

That money can go to a lot of different places, not just in the athletic department but throughout the university. Some of Nebraska’s athletic revenue goes back into academic scholarships and resources away from athletics. Rather than taking money from the university to hit operating costs, the athletic department is one of the few across the country that makes money.

This surplus could go to a new copier or new chairs for the office (get the reference?) or fund renovation projects to facilities. The athletic department appears to be in good shape moving forward.

All the Rule Changes

Just to have everything in one tidy place and keep you up to date on what has happened in the last week regarding the NCAA.

1. The NCAA is forming a working group to determine whether they’ll allow players to profit off their name, image and likeness.

It’s about time. It seems as though this won’t lead down the path of “players can be paid for being good at football” but rather if you have a side hustle, you can keep that side hustle. The YouTubers don’t have to choose between football or sponsored internet content. Someone like Jaxon Uhles, an old college classmate, can have his woodworking company while also playing fullback. Someone like Tyrin Ferguson can play outside backer for Nebraska and still try and build, MIXR. This is good. This is smart. Also please bring EA back.

2. The NCAA wants to move the college 3-point line back in men’s hoops.

This is not good, or smart. Not because they’re trying to tinker with the placement of the 3-point line on the court, that’s a concept worth exploring, but the justification of it and the execution is, like most NCAA-related things, off-base. 

The current placement of 20 feet, 9 inches, which has been in use since 2007, would be moved back to 22 feet, 1.75 inches. That is the international line. It is not the NBA line. Why move it if it’s not being moved to the NBA line? Why are we not moving both the men’s and women’s lines? One of the stated goals in making the change is to “(slow) the trend of the 3-point shot becoming too prevalent in men's college basketball.” Well it’s a little too late for that, guys. The 2019 NIT experimented with this placement and the results yielded more shots at a worse rate, which equals a worse product. 

Another goal is to decongest driving lanes and beef up actions inside the arc. Just shrink the paint then…? It was widened way back when to try and take away some power from dominant big men, which are now nowhere to be found, so it would make sense reversing course would have the intended effect.

I’m all on board with Kirk Goldsberry’s idea of letting each individual NBA team pick where they place their line on their home court — though I admittedly have no idea how that would translate to a college game with 300-something Division I schools — but this rule change would be dumb, at least in my eyes. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong. 

3. Not a rule change but the transfer portal is a mess.

Not going to spend too much space on this, Brandon Vogel wrote pretty much what I was going to write on the topic so go read him here. The fact of the matter is The Portal was an unequivocal win when it was announced but the dangers were somewhat hidden. Now the dangers are a reality. Kids are entering, losing their safety net (a return to their initial school) and ending up in the wind. Maybe there are some tweaks that need to be made here. 

If an athlete wants to test the waters and poke around at his options, he should be able to do so without the home school shutting and locking the door behind him. If a kid is completely out and has no interest in coming back, there should be distinctions made. Nebraska has handled the portal the way everyone should. 

Roby’s Combine

I wondered how Isaiah Roby would test in basketball drills. Athletic ability and measurements were always going to yield positive results and surprise, surprise, during his first day at the NBA Combine, Roby’s measurements were good-not-great but more than enough to keep him as the enticing springy stretch-forward prospect he is. His vertical was disappointing, but the agility/movement testing was great. 

What would he look like in five-on-five drills playing with teammates he doesn’t know? Would the tentative Roby who won’t pull the trigger on open jumpers and won’t look for his shot handicap him or would the potential and raw ability shine through?

It was encouraging he even chose to compete in the team drills in the first place. Plenty of combine participants didn’t and their spots could suffer because of it. Donte Divincenzo was a near-lottery pick last year because he balled out in five-on-fives. Roby has the ability to play his way up into the first round with a strong enough showing. 

Roby finished with 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting (1-of-2 from 3) and 1-of-3 from the free-throw line with five rebounds (one offensive), one assist, two turnovers and two blocks in 21 minutes during his first game. An uneven showing. He’ll need to be better.

After Day 1, he told reporters he had spoken with teams in the 25-40 pick range. That’s late first, early second. ESPN’s latest mock has him as an early second-rounder.

Sleepy Football

FOX is making its primetime slot 11 a.m. on Saturdays. That could be a shift across the board if reviews come back strong. 

They shouldn’t. Early-morning games are rough. For recruiting. For tailgating. For cheering.

Answer this question.

Ohio State is unbeaten and ranked. Nebraska is unbeaten and ranked. The two are meeting in Week 5 and ESPN’s College GameDay is in town. Which game has a better atmosphere? One that kicks off at 11 a.m. or one that kicks off at 7 p.m. under the lights in Memorial Stadium?

I’ll see myself out.

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